Dear Persephone (A Frozen Follow-Up)

Last week I begged Persephone to return from the Underworld so Demeter would end the polar vortex. After some beseeching, I said that the people of Earth would continue uploading covers of “Let it Go,” Queen Elsa’s epic showstopper from Disney’s Frozen. Well, on Sunday, I woke up to freezing rain, which later turned into snow. So this happened. Idina Menzel I ain’t. I’m barely Adele Dazeem. But here is my goddess-trolling humble offering.

In case you have no children or internet (how are you reading this post again?) and thus haven’t seen the original version of this Oscar-winning anthem, here you go:

In news related only in the sense that it involves me putting things on the internet, I have a Facebook page now. It’ll feature all updates from this blog, some links from my other social media, and random stuff that I find interesting and relevant and think my readers might, too. It’ll also feature updates about Thalia’s Musings, of course, although there’s still the Thalia’s Musings Facebook page for that. So, if this sounds like something you want in your news feed, go forth and like!

My weekend was Emma Approved

As you may remember, I’ve been following Pemberley Digital’s latest webseries, Emma Approved. It’s a modern retelling of Jane Austen’s Emma, in which Emma is a professional matchmaker/life coach,  Knightley is Emma’s business partner/accountant, and Harriet is Emma’s personal assistant.

In last Thursday’s episode, “Back in Business,” Harriet’s interpretation of Emma’s life coaching took the form of starting an online music club.

Harriet wrote a song, posted it on Emma’s YouTube channel, and included sheet music in the description so viewers could join her new club by uploading a cover.

So it came to pass that I spent my weekend joining a YouTube music club founded by a fictional character who originated in Regency England.

I’m on Harriet’s Twitter list and everything. ^_^ Want to play along? Click the image below for information at Emma’s website, and keep an eye on the hashtag #HarrietSongs on Twitter.

Dayeanne Hutton as Harriet Smith. Image via Emma Approved.

Can I just say this one more time, because I find it both baffling and awesome? Go to Emma Woodhouse’s website or Harriet Smith’s Twitter hashtag. Harriet Smith is following me on Twitter. Clueless has nothing on Emma Approved.

Ask A Slave: Thalia and Clio Collaborate

Clio, as I hope my Thalia’s Musings readers know, is the Muse of History. It’s quite evident that Clio and Thalia have both bestowed their blessings on Azie Dungey, creator and star of the historical comedy webseries Ask A Slave.

Azie Dungey in character as Lizzie Mae. Image via Ask A Slave: A Comedy Web Series

Ask A Slave is a comedy web series based on the actress’ experiences working at Mount Vernon portraying one of George Washington’s slaves. All questions and interactions are based on true life events. Watch Lizzie Mae, housemaid to President and Lady Washington, respond as modern-day Americans say the darndest things about history!

~ Ask A Slave YouTube Channel

Lizzie Mae is fictional, but her awesomely snarky answers to modern Americans’ questions are based on extensive historical research. Sometimes her guests are as fictional as she is. Other times she interviews real historical figures like Seneca chief and dignitary Red Jacket, and abolitionist Tobias Lear. Lizzie Mae’s interviews challenge stereotypes about life in colonial America, especially in regard to race relations, in an engaging, entertaining way. I always laugh and I usually learn something when I watch them.

So, if you’re a fan of quirky web comedy videos and/or American history, check out Ask A Slave! Here’s the first episode to get you started:

And here’s one more shot of the lovely Azie just because:

Azie Dungey as herself. Image via Ask A Slave: A Comedy Webseries

Want more info on Azie, Lizzie Mae, or the series? Click here for the official website. Enjoy!

Twisted: A Very Wicked Disney Musical

Promo poster for Twisted. Image via Do312

You probably know the musical comedic genius of Team Starkid from A Very Potter Musical and its sequels. What? You’ve never seen A Very Potter Musical??? Well, I’ll have to blog about that some other time, because it’s awesome. Draco is a girl in drag and Zac Ephron is a [SPOILER!] and Harry Freakin’ Potter is played by a pre-Glee Darren Criss (aka Blaine Warbler).

But today I’m fangirling about StarKid’s latest production, Twisted: The Untold Story Of A Royal Vizier. It parodies both Wicked and Disney’s Aladdin, as indicated by the promo poster. It’s as affectionate and irreverent a parody as any of StarKid’s other works. Ja’far (not to be confused with the copyright-protected Jafar) gets the Elphaba treatment as the virtuous scapegoat for all the kingdom’s problems. His “scheming” is really applied poli sci, his “sorcery” is advanced science, and his “evilness” is a desire to rid the streets of criminals who steal bread from simple hard-working bakers. He also shares an unexpectedly poignant romance with Scheherazade of One Thousand and One Nights fame. Aladdin, tragically orphaned at 33, is a perfect satire of a douchy hipster trustfund baby who’s too cool to work for a living like everyone else. The Princess is every 16-year-old rich white privilege-checking Social Justice Warrior on Tumblr who dreams of saving the world but has a lot to learn about how it actually works. Since her name is never mentioned, I’m sure she is not the licensed Disney Princess Jasmine.

Want a quick sampler? Watch the opening number, with its profanity-laced classic Disney-style crowd song (the villagers do not greet Ja’far with “Bonjour”):

Or the balcony scene, which references pretty much every Disney moral panic conspiracy theory of the 90s:

Or this title-dropping gallery of Disney’s most fabulous villains:

Got a couple hours? Watch the whole thing!

Pinterest Fiction: My Imaginary Well-Dressed Toddler Daughter

This concept is very near the top of my “Why The Effing Hell Did I Not Think Of This First??” list. We all have Pinterest boards that in no way reflect our actual lives, right? If Pinterest had a dime for every not-engaged woman who has a wedding pinboard- oh, wait, it probably does. Anyway, freelance writer Tiffany Beveridge took the imaginary pinboard phenomenon and owned it. She does not have a daughter, toddler or otherwise. What she has is a pinboard dedicated to her nonexistent daughter named Quinoa (that’s pronounced “keen-wa,” for those of you who weren’t raised by crunchy moms).

Image via My Imaginary Well-Dressed Toddler Daughter on Facebook

Beveridge captions all the pins with quips and anecdotes about little Quinoa and her baby hipster friends who have names like Chevron and Hashtag. Whether you think little kids are automatically adorable and precious, or you’re perpetually annoyed by your parent friends’ social media, or both, you’ll likely find some lolz in #MIWDTD. You can follow Quinoa’s adventures in fashion on Tumblr, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and the pinboard that started it all. And in Spring 2014, Quinoa is coming to bookstores! As a fellow web creator, I’m totes not bitter always glad to see something that started as a social media joke seriously why the hell didn’t I think of it gain this kind of success. 😀

The Doubleclicks: Geek Girls with Nothing to Prove

For this week’s Web Wednesday post, I present The Doubleclicks, one of my favorite musical comedy groups on the internet. In their own words,

The Doubleclicks are two sisters, a cello, and songs about dinosaurs, Jane Austen adaptations, dungeons and dragons. They are snarky, geeky, and sweet — and probably touring soon to a city near you!

– The Doubleclicks YouTube channel

Some of their songs make me laugh, like this love song to internet trolls.

Some genuinely bring tears to my eyes, like this one ostensibly written as a roll-the-credits song for a tragically nonexistent Wonder Woman movie.

Some are delightful means of mocking my friends for the things that make their lives worth living, like this ode to EVE Online.

And some feature celebrity cameos such as Wil Wheaton, John Scalzi, and Adam Savage and get over a million well-deserved views.

Want more? Go forth and doubleclick!

(Actually, single click. That just sounded like a really good way to end the post.)

Batman and Sons: Holy Parenthood, Batman!

Do you like Batman? No? Begone, spambot! Yes? Then read on, O flesh and blood human, and behold the fancomic that is Batman and Sons.

Batman and Sons
“Charge!” Image by The-BlackCat via deviantART

This series, by deviantART user The-BlackCat, puts the comedy in comic books. The premise is Batman being a single dad to his three adopted Robins and the Batbaby that Selina Kyle left on the doorstep of Wayne Manor. Dick, the oldest, is responsible and brave, the quintessential all-American boy sidekick. Next is Jason, usually the instigator of whatever havoc he and his brothers are wreaking. Tim, the youngest Robin, is sweet, innocent, and optimistic. And baby Terry is freakin’ adorable.

The series has tons of cameos from the rest of the Justice League. The Wayne boys go to school with every superkid in the DC Universe. Bruce has an ongoing feud with Oliver Queen/Green Arrow. Catwoman drops in for unauthorized visits to her baby. And of course, you can’t have the Superfriends without Superman. Sound like fun? Then start here and prepare to lose the next several hours of your life.

The Premier of Emma Approved is Amethyst Approved

I’ll bet I’m the only blogger to use that clever opening.

Pemberley Digital, the same web entertainment group who brought us The Lizzie Bennet Diaries last year, has launched a new Jane Austen update based on Emma. The first episode was posted to YouTube on Monday.

Emma Approved is as distinct from The Lizzie Bennet Diaries as Emma is from Pride and Prejudice. While Lizzie Bennet was a struggling middle-class grad student with a snarky, cynical outlook on her world and its inhabitants, Emma Woodhouse is a successful yuppie overflowing with unchallenged optimism and eager to make everyone’s dreams come true. In The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, William Darcy started off as Lizzie’s antagonist (in her mind, anyway) and didn’t appear onscreen until halfway through the series. (Ah, #DarcyDay. The memories.) Emma Approved shows us Alex Knightly interacting with our intrepid heroine in the first episode, and while they have major personality differences and like to give each other a hard time, it’s clear that Emma and Alex are good friends and have been for awhile. Their chemistry is of a different nature than Lizzie and Darcy’s, but equally appealing.

Emma Approved is similar to The Lizzie Bennet Diaries in that the source material has been politically corrected in the best of ways. A few of my favorite changes:

~ Emma and Alex don’t seem to have a significant age gap. I don’t know their history yet, but I doubt this Mr. Knightly has known Emma since he was sixteen and she was a baby, or has been love with her since she was thirteen and he was twenty-nine. Yeah. That was in the book. He said he fell in love with her when she was thirteen. I know, I know, historical context cultural differences blah blah blah, but HE FELL IN LOVE WITH HER WHEN SHE WAS THIRTEEN.

~ Women having careers is taken for granted. It’s pretty obvious that this Emma, like her literary counterpart, is wealthy and well-connected. And she’s used her wealth and connections toward a successful career “run[ning] the matchmaking and lifestyle division of the developing Highbury Partner’s Lifestyle group.” (I’m still not totally sure what that means, either.) Ms. Taylor, the future Mrs. Weston, is a personal chef and “power homemaker,” and half of a power couple Emma’s matchmaking services helped create. Emma’s on the hunt for a new personal assistant, whom I think/hope will be Harriet Smith.

~ Completely unrelated to social issues, I like the name Alex way better than the name George. If your name is George, I’m sure you’re a very nice person and I mean no offense. But can I call you Alex?

~ I’m always a little nervous about showing excitement over this kind of thing, because I’m afraid it’ll be perceived as negativity or oversensitivity or overthinking or race-baiting or even reverse racism. All-white casts don’t take away my enjoyment of a good story. They really don’t. A heroine being white doesn’t take away my ability to identify with her or see myself in her. It really doesn’t.  But there’s just something about the experience of having grown up as a girl of color obsessed with classic Western literature that I don’t know how to explain to someone who hasn’t shared that experience. I don’t know how to help you understand why this is such a big deal to me if you don’t already. But here it is…

Emma isn’t white.

The heroine in an adaptation of classic Western literature is a woman of color. Not the antagonist. Not the love interest. Not the sidekick. Not the best friend. Not the mentor. Not someone in orbit around the white star. The heroine. The protagonist. The person whose story this is. FREAKIN’ EMMA.

Emma, can you add makeup tutorials to your style posts? Please?

Ironically, although Emma’s mixed-race awesomeness is a huge deal to me, I’m counting on Pemberley Digital to make it a non-issue in-universe, much like they did with the multiracial cast in The Lizzie Bennet Diaries. After all, the whole point of adapting Jane Austen’s timeless work into a modern update is that there’s something universally human about these characters and their stories that transcends race, culture, and time.

Welcome to Night Vale #WebWednesdays

Don't look at the dog park
Image via Commonplace Books

It started with Tumblr. It seemed every other post I saw was a joke about something called Night Vale. A very insidey joke. I deduced that there were characters named Carlos and Cecil and something about a dog park and glowing lights and angels and the NRA, but that was about it. After a few weeks of this, I finally had a novel thought: Google! Google could tell me what Night Vale was!

I discovered that “WELCOME TO NIGHT VALE is a twice-monthly podcast in the style of community updates for the small desert town of Night Vale, featuring local weather, news, announcements from the Sheriff’s Secret Police, mysterious lights in the night sky, dark hooded figures with unknowable powers, and cultural events.”

A week or so later, I got around to playing the first episode on Soundcloud.

My verdict: Listen to Welcome to Night Vale if you like deadpan paranormal Lovecraftian comedy and obscure indie music. Don’t listen to Welcome to Night Vale if you hate scientists with perfect and beautiful hair, if you have no need to be apprised of the Angels’ activity, or if you have any intention whatsoever of letting the dog park enter your consciousness in any way, shape, or form.

Seriously, after I listened to a few episodes, I figured out why none of the fan posts I saw really explained what Welcome to Night Vale is. In the words of Glinda the Good, this series is “unusually and exceedingly peculiar and altogether impossible to describe.” So if any of this sounds remotely intriguing to you, check it out. Just DO NOT LOOK AT THE DOG PARK.